University of Florida, IFAS, Citrus Research and Education Center, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred 33850
Epidemics of citrus brown rot from 1994 to 1997 in the south-central and east-coast citrus areas of Florida were characterized and the causal Phytophthora spp. identified. Two species of Phytophthora, P. palmivora and P. nicotianae, were consistently associated with brown rot. Epidemics caused by P. palmivora appeared to be initiated on immature fruit dropped on the orchard floor. The soilborne fungus infected and sporulated on these fruit and was then disseminated to fruit above 1 m in the canopy. In contrast, infection by P. nicotianae, the common cause of root rot, was confined to the lowest 1 m of the canopy. Fruit infected by P. palmivora produced large amounts of ellipsoidal sporangia available for splash dispersal, whereas those infected by P. nicotianae produced far fewer spherical sporangia. Isolates from brown rot epidemics were compared with P. nicotianae from citrus in Florida and Texas, P. citrophthora in California, P. palmivora, and selected Phytophthora spp. from other hosts. Brown rot symptoms produced by the different pathogenic citrus isolates on inoculated fruit were indistinguishable. Morphology, mating behavior, and isozyme patterns of brown rot isolates from 1988 to 1997 matched P. palmivora from citrus roots, other host plants, and other locations, but were different from characterized isolates of P. citrophthora in California and P. nicotianae in Florida and Texas. Cellulose acetate electrophoresis of the isozyme glucose-6-phosphate isomerase rapidly identified the causal citrus pathogen from infected fruit and soil isolation plates. Although P. palmivora is an aggressive pathogen of citrus roots, bark, and fruit, populations in orchard soils were low compared with P. nicotianae.